New Paltz has its share of residents who are skeptical about vaccine mandates. Historically, those who speak on that issue at School Board meetings present themselves as people who have reviewed scientific data and have reached different conclusions than policymakers. Their bearing communicates fear and worry, but also polite respect. That was not the impression given by two individuals who attended the October 20 meeting, however. Rather, some trustees bristled to hear unfounded allegations about coronavirus vaccines; tensions rose when the two were asked to cover their faces — in compliance with state law — or leave.
Eli Kassimer advocated for a policy that requires sick people to “stay home,” rather than the imposition of any vaccination requirement. In an attempt to provide evidence of the dangers of the current batch of coronavirus vaccines, Kassimer claimed that 30 thousand deaths are “linked” to these vaccines according to data in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, but that’s incorrect. The word “linked” suggests that those deaths were caused by receiving a vaccine, but that’s impossible to declare based on VAERS data. This voluntary system is used to collect information about anything that people choose to report happened to them after receiving a vaccine. While 30,000 deaths were reported, based on this data set, it’s impossible to know how many were caused by heart disease, traffic accidents or other factors — or even to know how many of those deaths happened at all.
What led some board members to interrupt Kassimer was the claim that the term “informed consent” dates back to the Nuremberg Code. While that’s also incorrect — the phrase first appeared in a legal brief filed in 1957 — that’s not what triggered trustees. Rather, some of them appeared to jump to the conclusion that any reference to the historical atrocities committed by Nazis is an indirect way of claiming that the current situation rises to that same level. It’s not clear if that was Kassimer’s intent, but that’s why Bianca Tanis reminded Kassimer that the time limit was exceeded.
Kassimer removed a facial covering to speak during public comment. A frequent attendee of board meetings in recent months, Kassimer has in the past argued against requiring masks, on the basis that covering the face results in a dangerous drop in oxygen levels. That’s a topic that has been studied in surgeons more than once, as surgeons have long covered their faces and especially need their faculties about them. In a study of dentists performing oral surgery published earlier this year, researchers noted that oxygen levels in the blood dropped slightly, and was “without clinical relevance.” A broader study published more recently found no drop in oxygen saturation at all. While Kassimer did not again don a mask after being asked to sit down, it did not immediately spark a reaction.
After Kassimer’s remarks were cut off, Howard Miller rose to speak, and was asked to wear a mask at the microphone. Claiming a medical reason for being unable to do this, Miller also spoke against vaccines, telling trustees not to “live in fear,” and also repeating the unsubstantiated claim that coronavirus vaccines cause infertility. While pregnant people were excluded from the first vaccine trials, many of the test subjects did later become pregnant, and a review of what happened to 35,691 pregnancies after vaccination showed that the rate of problems was similar to what was happening before the pandemic altogether. There is no evidence that it’s harder to become pregnant, or to bring a child to term, after being vaccinated.
The rules that allow for meeting in person require that anyone in attendance keep their mouth and nose covered at all times. School Board members have rigorously adhered to that protocol since it came out earlier this year, and at this point Tanis declared that if Miller and Kassimer weren’t going to follow the law, that they would have to leave. Reminding the pair that comments sent in writing are also shared with all board members, Tanis told them that they “need to leave” if they would not comply. That they did, although they turned back more than once to share another thought on their way out the door.